On Monday evening, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America held its first event at Laurier.
CAMERA is a media monitoring organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. A non-partisan organization, CAMERA takes no position with regard to political issues or with regard to ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The organization's goal is to counter distorted news coverage that misleads the public and to ensure access to accurate, referenced facts about the Middle East.
As part of this goal, CAMERA sponsors speaking tours of Middle East experts across North American university campuses in hopes of teaching students about media bias and the slant put on the news by Western media outlets.
Monday night's event was an in-depth discussion with Mr. Asaf Romirowsky, a Middle East analyst and the former Manager of Israel and Middle East Affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Romirowsky is also an Adjunct Scholar at the Middle East Forum and a lecturer at Pennsylvania State University.
The lecture focused on the current environment in the greater Middle East region and the growing threat that radical fundamentalist Islamism poses to the Western world. More specifically, Romirowsky discussed the Lebanese group Hizbullah and the Palestinian group Hamas, both recognized as terrorist organizations, as well as the current Iranian regime under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
According to Romirowsky, both Hizbullah and Hamas are operating against the State of Israel as proxies for Iran, part of a larger war against the Western world. This global war has been demonstrated through numerous attacks against the West, including 9/11, the 7/7 attacks in London, the foiled Christmas Day bomber, and most recently, last week's failed Yemen cargo plane bomb plot.
These radical Islamist organizations are headed by charismatic leaders who are able to gain support from the masses by invoking the name of Allah and claiming that their actions are validated by Allah's will for Muslims to conquer the world and reestablish the Islamic caliphate. Romirowsky referred to the leader of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, as "the Obama of the Arabic world."
He continued, "If you listened to him all day long, it's understandable that you would want to go out and kill Jews, Americans, and Westerners." The use of the media by extremists in the Muslim world to disseminate anti-Western propaganda is a key factor in this global war.
While there was a day when Islamic leaders preached respect for Jews and Christians, whom they call the People of the Book, these radical Islamists are distancing themselves from this attitude and are instead embracing what Romirowsky several times called a "black and white" world. In their eyes, there are only infidels and non-infidels. There are those who believe in the prophet Muhammad, and those who do not. And this is the very reasoning used by terrorist groups when attacking Jews, Christians, Zionists, and the West as a whole.
Romirowsky stressed that the majority of Muslims in the world are by no means radicals. However, he noted that of the approximately 1.4 billion Muslims across the world, if even just 10 to 15% of them subscribe to these radical beliefs, that is an extremely strong number of extremists voicing these opinions and potentially willing to act on them.
Addressing the issue of Iranian nuclear proliferation, Romirowsky commented, "If you talk to anybody on the Arab Sunni street today, their biggest concern is not about the Palestinians. The Muslim world is less concerned about the Palestinians than they are about the threat of Iran. For them, the idea that the Shiites will become a dominant force in the region is a scary predicament."
This grave concern has been made clear by recent cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, who have not been friendly in the past. The chief of Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, was reported to have visited Saudi Arabia to discuss the Iranian threat. Additionally, Israel did not voice any opposition to the recent US sale of $60 billion of arms to the Saudis, possibly showing some indication of collaboration in the impending conflict with Iran.
Romirowsky ended the discussion by answering an audience question about the Obama administration's perspective on the Iranian threat. While he acknowledged the importance of sanctions, he added that a military option is important in case all else fails. "There is slowly an understanding that we need to do a lot more. [Secretary of Defence Robert] Gates has been very adamant that there should be a military option on the table. No US president will want to be in the position where he had the intelligence, and didn't do anything about it. He doesn't want to wake up one day, having done nothing, and see that Iran has bombed Tel Aviv."